Raleigh City Council approves $1.04 billion budget with no tax increase

A winter skyline view of downtown Raleigh, N.C. on Wednesday, January 16, 2019.
A winter skyline view of downtown Raleigh, N.C. on Wednesday, January 16, 2019. rwillett@newsobserver.com

The Raleigh City Council approved a $1.04 billion budget Monday that holds the line on the city’s property tax rate.

“We have a budget that is moving the city forward,” Mayor Pro Tem Corey Branch said. “The need out here is great. If we were in DC we could print money to cover our expenses, but we have to work with what we have.”

The budget is 6.7 percent higher than the current year’s adopted budget. The city saw slight increases in property tax and sales tax revenue.

The council approved the new spending plan unanimously, with a few tweaks submitted by council member Kay Crowder.

It includes:

  • $300,000 for a Dix (Park) Edge Area Plan
  • $75,000 for an Olde East Raleigh Area Plan
  • $75,000 for a Wakefield Area Plan
  • $22,000 for the Blue Ridge Corridor Alliance

Area plans help prepare for growth by determining how land can best serve the community and what, if any, changes are needed in traffic and public utilities infrastructure.

“For the Dix Edge Area Plan, we know there is going to be prosperity that is going to happen because of the park,” Crowder said. “We just want to make sure we create a study that guides us in how this edge looks so we have the resources we need and have all kinds of housing there.”

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Some worry, as the city develops the more than 300-acre park outside downtown, that people who live along the edges could be forced out through gentrification.

Money for police and fire

Council member David Cox asked for $240,000 to give police sergeants and fire captains below the city’s pay range midpoint a 5% raise instead of 3%. But only he and council member Stef Mendell voted for it, so the motion failed..

The budget already includes a 3% to 5% merit increase for public safety and other employees. Some other city employees could see a 1% to 6% increase depending on their jobs.

In a memo to the council, staff said the increase Cox wanted could lead to pay compression and contribute to future leapfrogging, when an employee with less experience receives more money than someone with more experience.

City leaders did agree to create a new council committee to look at employee pay-related issues and report back in October.

“I am disappointed in that, but I am also hopeful because we (created) a committee to look into all these issues,” Cox said. “And so we hope to get that sorted out over the next few months.”

Council members Dickie Thompson and Nicole Stewart voted against creating the committee because the city just completed a pay and classification study. There are consultants who do this work for a living, and the council should listen to the experts it paid, Thompson said.

Budget highlights

The budget approval came during a short work session Monday. It is the first in five years without a property tax rate increase.

The tax rate will remain 43.82 cents per $100 valuation, meaning the owner of a $300,000 home will pay $1,314.60 in city property taxes.

The budget includes a 75 cent per month increase for the average water and sewer residential customer, bringing the total sewer “base charge” up to $7.61 per month.

Here’s are some other items in the city budget:

  • $13.6 million for affordable-housing efforts, including the creation of 645 affordable rental units.
  • $37.2 million for New Bern Bus Rapid Transit work and other items in the Wake Transit Work Plan. Plus $11 million for “general transit” projects.
  • $180.8 million for water and sewer system upgrades and expansion.
  • An increase in the city’s living wage for regular, full-time workers, from $30,340 to $32,090.
  • Replacement of two fire engines and water and trench rescue equipment

Wake County approved its $1.47 billion budget last week with a property tax rate increase of just over 10 percent. Wake County’s new property tax rate will be 72.07 cents per $100 of assessed property value: a 6.63-cent increase. The owner of a $300,000 house will pay $2,162.10 in county property taxes, a $198.90 increase.

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Anna Johnson covers Raleigh and Wake County for the News & Observer. She has previously covered city government, crime and business for newspapers across North Carolina and received many North Carolina Press Association awards, including first place for investigative reporting. She is a 2012 alumna of Elon University.
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